Expectations of war and anticipations of flight have sometimes resulted in similar phenomena. In July and August 1909, phantom airships were widely reported in New Zealand. These occurred in a climate of fear about a German attack, and the airships were most often interpreted as Zeppelins, possibly launched from a German warship known to be in the South Pacific. Belgium was visited by a mystery airship in February 1913, believed to have come from the French frontier, while the French themselves had become used to intrusions by phantom Zeppelins into their airspace. Mystery aeroplanes were also seen. One with a powerful searchlight near Jassy in Romania in January 1913 was thought to be Russian and fired upon. A month later, phantom Russian aeroplanes with searchlights were seen over the Austro-Hungarian border towns of Lemberg and Tarnopol.
The importance of the context of war scares is made even clearer by mystery aircraft seen in the heat of war itself. In 1899, Boer outposts were warned to watch out for attacks by British airships, and stars were duly interpreted as airships. In the first two years of the First World War, phantom airships returned to Britain; for example, persistent rumours of a Zeppelin operating from a secret base in the Lake District were only dispelled by a coordinated land and air search of the area. In South Africa, the start of war led to fears of air attack from the German colony of South-West Africa; an aeroplane with a searchlight was seen on several occasions, even though the few aircraft the Germans possessed were in no way capable of flying the distances involved. At the same time, Canadians worried about German sympathisers in the United States launching an air attack, and in February 1915 Ottawaâ€™s air raid precautions were put into effect as several aeroplanes were thought to be attacking. In the US itself, similar worries about the loyalties of German-American citizens led to sightings of mystery aeroplanes during the period 1916-8.